The first case in the UK of a new strain of feline coronavirus (FCoV-23) that has led to the deaths of at least 8,000 cats from feline infectious peritonitis in Cyprus has been confirmed.
The cat, which had been imported from Cyprus, is under quarantine and receiving treatment. There is no evidence that the virus has spread to any other cats in the UK.
FCoV-23 started spreading in January this year through the large stray cat population in Cyprus, which is estimated to be as large as 1.5 million. Reports in the summer suggested that as many as 300,000 cats had died on the island, although the actual figure is now believed to be around 8,000.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh are working on sequencing the new strain. It is thought that it is spreading between cats through faecal-oral transmission, although this is yet to be confirmed.
BVA president Anna Judson said: “The arrival of FCoV-23 in the UK is highly concerning, but so far this looks to be an isolated case in an imported cat, and action has been taken to minimise any spread of the virus.
“There is no known risk to people but pet owners should remain vigilant, because the virus can cause feline infectious peritonitis, which if left untreated can be fatal to cats. If owners have any concerns about their pet, they should speak to their vet immediately.
“The discovery of FCoV-23, combined with the increasing cases of Brucella canis from dogs arriving on our shores, shows the UK is seriously vulnerable to imported diseases. The Government needs to grasp the nettle on this crucial issue by introducing the long overdue import testing measures BVA has been calling for.”
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